2020 in review – Corona edition

oh boy, what a year.

This post is meant to give you a short overview of what has been accomplished in D-PHYS IT by ISG this year. We’ve been hard at work to further improve and extend our services for you, our customers. Some highlights of 2020:

  • Home office: on March 12, due to rapidly rising Covid-19 numbers, ISG was sent to work from home, along with most of the department. While we had somewhat anticipated this step and were prepared for it, the first two weeks were very busy because we had to assist a lot of people who weren’t. In the end I believe we got everyone set up and we have been fully operational from home with only occasional individual visits to the office since then.
  • Matrix/Element/Riot: one of the most pressing issues with everyone working from home was an efficient and versatile tool for team communication. We had started internal tests of our Matrix chat system in late 2019, but then intensified our efforts in February and were able to release the system for general D-PHYS availability in home office week (HOW) 2. During the course of 2020, we continually kept working on the system and added new exciting features.
    We also run a Jitsi instance for privacy-aware video conferencing.
  • New laptop backup: our traditional BackupPC backup system for laptops and lab computers relies on each backup client to be reachable in the D-PHYS network, which obviously didn’t work any longer in the home office regime. In HOW 17, we released a new backup system for laptops that works from any internet connection worldwide. Unfortunately, only very few of you have signed up for the service so far. Please make sure you have a backup of your laptop!
  • Ansible deployment: more servers and finally also the managed Linux workstations have been added to our ansible configuration management, allowing for completely automated installation of our systems.
  • Network migration: the extensive Hönggerberg network reorganization we reported two years ago hasn’t seen much progress by Informatikdienste, but we have been working on our side to make the first steps. In early 2020 we migrated the dhcp.phys DNS service from our servers to ID’s as a prerequisite for the eventual Gebäudezonen split.
  • Storage: in 2020 the disk space occupied by data and backup grew from 2.7 PiB to 3.2 PiB, continuing the obvious trend of ever-growing data. We have now also started the process of phasing out the oldest disk backends in order to replace them with fewer, bigger disks.
  • Software licenses: in the past 12 months, both Adobe and Microsoft decided to switch to a new license system in which each installation requires a license tied to a personal user account. In future, we can’t create or extend your Adobe or Microsoft licenses for you, no matter how often you ask us to. You have to do it yourself, according to our instructions for Adobe and Microsoft (you might also want to think about switching to less oppressive software alternatives).
  • Outages: apart from two pre-announced storage migration windows (one of which took a bit longer than expected), 4 h of mail server hardware issues and some short-term network interruptions, our systems have been very stable in 2020. We are aware of the fact that wifi is quite often an issue, and we’re trying to convince Informatikdienste to take it seriously.
  • OS upgrades: The Windows team was active migrating the Windows 2016 servers to 2019 while on the Linux side the first workstations were upgraded to Ubuntu 20.04 and most servers are now running Debian buster.
  • Software upgrades: mostly incremental upgrades in our Windows and Linux software list this year.
  • UCC: in February, the old non-VoIP phones in HPT, HPF and HPK were replaced by shiny new ones, just a few weeks before we were all sent home…
  • ISG staff changes: Patrick Schmid left us at the end of 2019 and was replaced by Maciej Bonin in February. Christian Schneider was replaced by Stephan Müller in September. And finally, Sukash Sugumaran superseded Janosch Bühler as our apprentice.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my whole team for their hard and dedicated work all year long.

Happy Holidays and see you in 2021!

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